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NEW YORK — Hello Kitty fans are about to get a major taste of luxury.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Sanrio, the parent company of the Hello Kitty brand, is setting up its first Sanrio Luxe concept shop in Times Square, at 233 West 42nd Street. The opening is planned for Nov. 11.

The idea behind the new concept is to attract fashion-forward women in their 20s who grew up with the Hello Kitty brand, said Janet Hsu, president of Sanrio global consumer products. The store, which will sell merchandise ranging from an exclusive pack of pencils for $5 to a diamond-encrusted pendant for $30,000, is filled with items that will only be found at the Times Square location.

“Hello Kitty has been in the U.S. since 1976, so many women have grown up with the brand,” Hsu said. “We thought this was a great new way to present some of our most exclusive products.”

The 1,200-square-foot space was closed for about four weeks as it was transformed from a typical Hello Kitty store to Sanrio Luxe. It was designed by Los Angeles-based interior designer Tracy Beckmann, who created the store’s custom black-and-white cabinets, glossy display tables, glass jewelry cases, fixtures and dramatic black-framed mirrors. The black wallpapered walls and restored vintage couches and chairs are all displayed under a ceiling painted light blue and large black crystal chandeliers.

Modeled after a “modern-day nursery storybook with a romantic feeling,” pink glitter-covered heels, crystal-encrusted clutches and down-filled handbags are displayed in white wall cabinets. Shiny white fixtures display cashmere cardigans and silk scarves. Every item also has the cat logo on it, whether it’s large on the back of a studded leather jacket, prominent on a baby onesie or subtly hidden in a printed silk dress.

Clothing ranges from about $75 for a pair of cashmere gloves to $250 for a chunky knit cashmere cardigan to $550 for a leather jacket. Almost every item is exclusive to the store and designed in a collaboration: handbags and shoes, with Italian design house Camomilla; Colombia-based contemporary apparel from Mabel Palacio; Parisian cashmere women’s and children’s wear from Victoria Couture, and Kimora Lee Simmons’ fine jewelry. Hsu said there will be more collaborations, including limited edition Hello Kitty Fender electric guitars that are to hit the selling floor before the end of the year.

“We see luxe as a concept, not in the way you would traditionally see a luxury store,” Hsu explained. “It’s not so much about price, but more about the luxury of being able to buy exclusive, hard-to-find products. While there are some expensive pieces in the store, the majority of our items are approachable when it comes to price.”

Some of what is available at the store also can be found on Hsu said there are no immediate plans to open another Sanrio Luxe store, since the New York location is a test.

“We are looking at many different distribution channels for this Luxe concept,” she said. “But first, we are really interested to see how holiday turns out.”

Hsu declined to give first-year sales expectations.

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